Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celebrating Local NC Food: Baby Back Ribs with the NC Pork Council

This month's signature cut with the NC Pork Council is RIBS! OTHER than my husband (who isn't a fan of any meat on the bone....I know... I have no idea...???)... WHO doesn't love ribs?

I love them! And honestly, I don't make them as often as I should. Especially in the summer, as ribs just seem like the ideal hot summer meal.

I've chosen my slow cooker as my cooking element of choice for these recipes with the pork council! I love using a slow cooker, it's so easy and since we don't grill out much, it's a great option. Also, proteins are not my cooking specialty and it seems like whenever I go the easy route and make them in the slow cooker, they're always perfect!

When I think of ribs, I generally think of savory, crispy pork slathered in a tangy barbecue sauce. I didn't have any barbecue sauce on-hand and I wanted to go in a different direction. I wanted to do something with an Asian flavor, so I started looking up recipes in my cookbooks at home.

I ran across a recipe in "The Food Lover's Make it Paleo" cookbook by Bill Staley and Haley Mason. The recipe sounded good to me because it had Asian flavors, but also didn't use soy sauce, which is really helpful since I'm allergic to soy.

I changed the recipe a bit, just adding several additional spices that we enjoy. You basically make an easy rub for the ribs and then several hours into slow cooking you drizzle a sesame ginger glaze over them.

The ribs caramelize will then caramelize a bit and with the fat that cooks through, they have a wonderful flavor and texture. When they have finished cooking they are fall-off-the-bone delicious. We served the ribs with slow cooked collard greens &amp (made in another slow cooker) and cinnamon sugar sweet potatoes, which I covered in foil and placed beneath the ribs. The sweet potatoes cooked right underneath the ribs, a technique I love using with root vegetables and even ears of corn. (You can find both of those recipes in my Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook.)

That's another fun thing about using a slow cooker, you can cook several components of a meal in addition to one-dish meals! Super easy peasy and kinda fun as well!

Slow Cooked Chinese Spiced Ribs
adapted from a recipe in "The Food Lover's Make it Paleo" by Bill Staley and Haley Mason
free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts
printer-friendly recipe

Rub Ingredients: 
  • 3-5 pounds baby back ribs
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar or crystallized maple sugar or coconut palm sugar
Glaze Ingredients: 
  • 3-4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut aminos (a savory substitute for soy sauce, if you're cool with soy, use GF soy sauce!)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, minced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar
  1. In a large bowl of a bag mix together Chinese five-spice powder, curry powder, ground ginger, ground cardamom, Saigon cinnamon, and brown sugar. 
  2. Pat the rub generously over the baby back ribs, that have been cut into portions. Place the ribs into a greased 4-6 quart slow cooker and cook on LOW heat for 4-5 hours. (Alternately, you can cook on HIGH for 2 hours)
  3. Around the 4-5 hour mark mix the glaze ingredients together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Pour evenly over the ribs and continue to cook ribs another 2-3 hours on low heat. (Alternately, IF you are cooking on HIGH heat, around the 2-3 hour mark, mix the glaze together, pour over ribs and cook an additional 2 hours on HIGH heat.)
  4. When ready to serve, cut slow cooker off and allow ribs to cool for 30 minutes before serving. We served with slow cooked collard greens and cinnamon-sugar sweet potatoes. 

Previous Posts written in conjunction with the NC Pork Council

GLG Disclosure: 
This post is part of a new monthly series featuring local NC pork products sponsored by the North Carolina Pork CouncilThe NC Pork Council provided me with a gift certificate to purchase pork products and create a recipe to share. The opinions and photography in this post are completely my own.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

"Perky" News: I am an Enell Blog Ambassador... YIKES!

So what's this all about?

Well, Enell is a company that makes sports bras and apparel for (shall we say) busty gals... And I am a very busty gal. Always have been. I can thank my grandmother and many aunts for these beauties. And I haven't always been happy about them. Large breasts, big boobs, honkers, basketballs (Boinga, boinga!)... Yep, I've heard it all. And if you've been doubly blessed as well, you've probably heard most of it too.

It meant getting noticeable breasts at a very young age, it meant having to ask for a bra before any of my friends had one (I was 8 or 9, I think?)... it wasn't always the most pleasant gift to have.

As I got older, bustier, and gained weight...I really started to hate underwires. I mean HATE underwires. I still HATE underwires! I would buy super fancy, super expensive bras to hold these ladies up... and the first thing I'd do is cut out the underwires... So those expensive bras never lasted very long... and I always hated my shape in them.

I discovered Enell apparel a little over 10 years ago (I think??). It was right before I was married and when I was working at a popular "for ladies only" fitness gym. (Yep... I used to work as a fitness "expert"... sort of blows my mind since I'm anything but....) I remember a lady who worked out there regularly and she told me one day about the sports bra she was wearing. She said it held her in like nothing else ever had before. Even 10 years ago the bras were a bit out of my price range, but I remembered the name "Enell" and several years later I researched them and bought one! And I LOVED it. NO WIRES, and yet this bra was super form fitting and had everything in the right place. That lady wasn't kidding... these Enell sports bras held those big suckers in! Held them in TIGHT! and I could exercise without feeling like I was bouncing all over the place. (Stop giggling, this is seriously an annoying issue for big-busted gals! :-) Okay fine, giggle... but it's annoying! lol) 

Several years after I bought my initial Enell sports bra, the company started producing the Enell Lite version of the bra which was comfortable enough for everyday wear also WITHOUT wires! The Lite version, doesn't hold you in as tight as the sports bra, but is shapely, very comfortable, and is extremely supportive. And while this is probably WAY more information than you'll ever need to know... the Enell Lite bras have become everyday wear. Actually they are now the only type of bras I ever buy. You're welcome, you can live a little easier now! :-P

So several months ago I read that the Enell company was looking for bloggers to act as Ambassadors for the company. As an Enell Ambassador you would be required to participate in 2-4 fitness events a year (such as a 5K) and blog about your experience. Enell would pay the cost of your registration fees for the event and provide a t-shirt and of course a great sports bra! Even though I've never really shared publically my love for Enell, I thought why not? And I hoped this would give me the incentive I needed to REALLY get back into an exercise routine. I NEED an exercise routine. I'll share more about that in another blog post... but that's basically why I thought this might be a good fit.

So I filled out the application and sent it in. Now, if you've been a fan of my blog for any length of time you should know that exercise is not really my thing. I will fight tooth and nail before before going to the gym or God-forbid taking a Zumba class. I've DONE it... but I have never loved it. And while I'm not really sure that will CHANGE, what I do want to change is a willingness to be active. I love walking. I'm not a runner and I doubt that will change in the future, but I want be willing to be active at least in an activity I enjoy. And I truly enjoy walking, especially when the weather is cooler. 

Well, a few months went by and honestly I completely forgot about the Enell Ambassador program. Apparently they had hundreds of applicants for 17 spots and I really didn't think I would fit the qualifications. 

Except... about 2 weeks ago I received an email telling me Congratulations, you've been chosen as an ENELL AMBASSADOR! 

taking a walk with my friend Amy and her daughter Amelia, May 2014

And the first thing I did was absolutely PANIC! 

HOLY MOLY... so this means I am going to HAVE to exercise if I want free bras lolol... and maybe gain some physical health in the process... holy cow... what did I get myself into? 

So I thought about it for a few days. I wasn't sure I was ready for a commitment like this. But after talking with my nutritionist and pondering a few more days... I decided that this was a really good opportunity. I'm not big on promoting products in the first place, but having the opportunity to not only earn free apparel, but to promote a company that I truly love is a good motivation to get movin'! 

As I learn more about the program and choose the events I will participate in, I'll share more about Enell and my own health journey! I hope you'll join me! (I'll need all the support I can get... AND not just from the bra!! Would you people stop giggling... geez! :-P)

Please check out these recent posts from other ENELL Ambassadors:

GLG Disclosure: 
This post is part of a new series sponsored by ENELL. The ENELL Ambassador program provides fitness apparel and pays for fitness event registration fees in exchange for blog posts shared about the blogger's  fitness experience. The opinions in this post are completely my own. I , and other bloggers in the Enell Ambassador Program are not monetarily compensated for any blog posts written for/or about ENELL products. 

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jodi's Simple Vegetarian Antipasto Salad

photos by Jodi Hargreaves, used with permission.

Jodi decided to save the day here at I told her that my poor blog had been neglected the past few months and I needed some new recipes. SO she went home, made her current favorite lunch salad and took pictures. Sent them to me and said, "Here you go, I fixed it."

So here's Jodi's salad! We couldn't really figure out what to name it, but it's sort of an antipasto salad sans any meat... so it's vegetarian right? ;-)

Whatever it is... it's good!

I actually made my own version of the salad this week and used mini cucumbers and heirloom cherry tomatoes and that worked great too! However, I love the half-moon cucumbers in Jodi's salad!

And you really can't beat fresh mozzarella! Especially when it soaks up all the tomato, cucumber, and red wine vinegar goodness!

Jodi's salad is quite simply:
  • a chopped tomato (or halved cherry tomatoes)
  • black, seeded calamata olives
  • green olives with or without the stuffed pimento
  • half a cucumber, sliced (or 2 sliced mini cucumbers)
  • half a ball of fresh mozzarella, cubed 
  • sliced banana peppers (optional... I left these out! You can haz them Jodi!)
  • whole salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar 

That's it! Just mix it up, refrigerate and have for lunch! 

I used a fancy-schmancy smoked balsamic vinegar from The Olive Wagon in Raleigh, NC.  Use whatever your favorite red wine or balsamic vinegar is, use your favorite cheese, make up your own salad for a quick and easy weekday lunch! :-) Thanks for saving the day Jodes! :-)

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